Google is continuously updating its algorithm, causing major shifts in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Businesses are losing their visibility in search, and marketers need to be ready to respond.
The search engine optimization (SEO) industry is one of the most dependent on Google and they are constantly changing the rules in order to keep people on their toes. The way you have to approach SEO these days is completely different from even a few years ago.
In 2018, there were two major updates from Google that marketers need to be aware of. The first is an update to the mobile-friendly algorithm which went into effect in April. This update was intended to target sites that were not mobile-friendly and prioritize those that were.
We know that Google’s algorithm isn’t the only ranking signal out there, but it is the most important one. If your site isn’t on Page 1 for a given set of keywords, you’re not getting any search traffic from that query, and you’re losing out on potential customers.
What happens during Google algorithm updates
Many Google algorithm updates address specific issues relating to an industry or SERP feature. These are usually easy to spot.
“When there’s a targeted update, which is my term and not Google’s, you’re likely to see changes to SERP features,”Carter
“If you look up a COVID testing site, you’ll see some of the targeted work that it’s [Google] done around that SERP,” she provided as an example of a “targeted” update, “It’s curated the results so that you’re seeing information from the government rather than seeing commercial results, and the maps that it’s showing are specifically targeted at medical elements.”
On the other hand, Core updates are algorithm changes that alter how Google indexes and ranks sites broadly.
You might witness a sudden increase or decrease in domain visibility or a sudden increase or decrease in traffic across the domain.
” rather than one page suddenly falling in rank, you might see a lot of pages change or increase in rank,”Carter
Identifying what type of algorithm update has rolled out is a key step in responding to ranking fluctuations.
How marketers should respond to updates
Your response to an update depends on how your online presence got affected and also the type of change.
“If you’re on the winning end of this, it’s all smiles.This is a good sign that you are on the right track with regards to the quality of your information, the demonstrable credibility of your website, and that Google thinks that you have good technical accessibility.Carter
“Doing well on Google algorithm updates gives you the opportunity to build and compound your SEO capabilities over time,”Carter
“One of the reasons is that the criteria for your vertical may have changed,” Carter said, referencing a former client who was negatively affected by Google’s update to medical-related results: “They were a reputable, fantastic medical business, and they were selling a test server health test. Then there was a change in the SERP — Google decommercialized this service. For that particular query, they were prioritizing people like the Mayo Clinic, the World Health Organization, and the CDC.”
“When Google does that, you have to take a strategic approach to your SEO, which is different from your standard competitive keyword research,” she added.
“You might have missed something, and this often happens with in-house teams because you’re busy,” Carter said. “You might have missed a particular directive or instruction or rule, or a new element from Google. It might be that you need to play catch up.”
When your site is hit by a core update, it’s important to stay focused on best practices. Carter says this will future-proof your properties for the next round of changes.
“Don’t argue with the algorithm and don’t expect improvements until the next update,” she said. “Sometimes people want to throw everything at it. But generally speaking, the core of the core algorithm updates are around the domain, so Google makes it a quality assessment of your approach to SEO.”
What to expect from future changes
As a successful marketer, your strategies should not just focus on identifying and responding to updates. You should also be able to expect the trends shaping future updates.
“Google introduced MUM [Multitask Unified Model] — the latest powerful AI tool and it helps it [Google] understand the information in a way that it’s not been able to do so before,” said Carter. “Not only does it process natural language, but it does so in 75 languages, and it’s also able to process text and also images and it’s also going to set up to be able to grow to process video and audio as well, so Google is already future-proofing this AI tool.”
Additional resource: How to recover from Google Algorithm update
You may not be able to control Google’s algorithm, but you can prepare for it in advance by making sure your business is using the latest SEO best practices. If you need help with this and other aspects of content marketing, our blog can provide you with more resources to get started